Qatar signed a ten-year Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with the U.S. Tuesday that allows Washington to continue keeping American troops in Qatar and launch military operations from there. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Qatari Defense Minister Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah to sign the deal. Marking just one stop in Hagel’s visit to the region, he reassured Arab allies of ongoing U.S. support, despite dismay among the Gulf States over American policies regarding Iran and Syria.
Currently, the U.S. government keeps over 35,000 civilian and military personnel in and around the Gulf. Qatar’s central location, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, allows the U.S. easier access to the entire region. The presence of American military forces in the country also provides Sunni Qatar with guaranteed defense and national security against threats from Shiite Iran.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, is greeted by Deputy Defense Minister Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, after arriving in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. (Photo: AP)
Despite this renewal of cooperation between Washington and Doha, Western countries have scrutinized Qatar’s abuse of human rights. As one of the richest countries in the world, Qatar also has the highest ratio of migrants to citizens. Foreign workers face abusive working conditions, dreadful living standards, and low wages, according to international human rights organizations. Activists have demanded an end to worker exploitation, especially as the emirate accelerates construction for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, local officials claim laws are already in place protecting workers from mistreatment.
Even with the new agreement in place,Washington and Doha still disagree over significant international issues. Qatar actively supports the Muslim Brotherhood, and has reached out to the Palestinian terror organization Hamas and rebels from Libya, Darfur, and Syria. Qatar has provided aid to radical Islamists in Syria and Muslim Brotherhood activists in Egypt. Al-Jazeera, an international news channel wholly owned by the Government of Qatar, airs anti-Western and anti-Semitic content throughout the Arab world. Qatar’s foreign policy and human rights abuses highlight the conflict between U.S. security concerns in the Gulf and its interest in transparent and democratic government.